Originally published on Savagefemme.net
Looking for a page turner to keep you warm this winter?
Look no further than Waking the Merrow by Heather Rigney!
Short and sweet summary: Killer cannibal Mermaids, a drunk sleuth of a mom whos family gets stolen by said mermaids, and a story to keep you on the edge of your seat until you turn the last page. Or until you purchase the other two books in this Rhode Island based Trilogy.
Prior to purchasing Heather Rigney’s Waking the Merrow Trilogy I stalked the poor woman’s Instagram (Handle @mermaidlovessushi) over a year before I had the chance to purchase any of her books. This is both funny and embarrassing as this is also how I introduced myself to her when I met her at Association of Rhode Island Authors Expo last December in her hometown of Pawtuxet Village. I was on cloud nine when I finally received my coveted copy, with personalized signature too. Something I often tell Heather that feels surreal to me.
Heather and her main character Evie are badass feminist women that I want to share with the entire world, so when I got the opportunity to do a book review for Savage Femme I immediately thought of Heather. Lovingly dubbed the Merrow trilogy, the story follows a local Rhode Island mom and her quest to save her family from a coven of carnivorous sirens. Alcohol and cuss words joined with a few well placed fourth wall breaks are involved in this tale of anxiety inducing horror. Evie, our narrator, is your average hot mess mom with a few sailor qualities common amongst us native Rhode Island girls. Modeled after the author’s personal flaws and endearing qualities, Evie is relatable as she is funny.
“Personally, this trilogy is like my feminist manifesto, and challenging society’s view of women.” This is evident with Heather’s main character Evie, who come to find out is Heather’s spirit animal. To this I have to agree. Evie, although heavily flawed, clumsy, and drunk, is what I feel my ideal self is. Well, minus the drunk. The rest still apply to me. Heather said some of her fans actually dislike Evie because she is like a reflection of the worst parts of people. Through writing Evie, Heather gained a form of self acceptance. The book itself is full of feminist energy and power. This is hard to come by in some books, while some just fall short. Rigney happens to be an avid Margaret Atwood fan, which explains her style of tone, citing works like The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace as a few of her favorites. She also grew up in a very feminist household with many strong role models, which she uses to enrich her characters.
“My parents were feminists, especially my dad. They raised me tough, which sometimes I hated, but they knew I would face challenges because I was a girl. This series ended up becoming my feminist manifesto.”
“Evie is my Spirit Animal,” Rigney said during our phone interview. “She makes some people uncomfortable and flaunts her flaws, which I love. She was like a spiritual awakening for me.” To which, dear reader, I can fully agree with.
“Heather, after reading this I try to live my life a little like Evie everyday. She inspires me to just be me,” I replied.
“That makes me so happy to hear! She truly is special to me.”
Heather happened to grow up in a fairly feminist Irish family, where she was raised with tough love and different views of the world that most girls are taught. This translates over into how she creates Evie’s personality to mirror her own. She also challenges the role of women and motherhood through the books as well. The playground scenes during the opening chapters are the antithesis of women culture. How we feel like we are never good enough and that we are always doing something wrong. Evie owns it. She owns her flaws throughout all her turmoil with the merrow.
Each character is relatable and you can find someone you know in each role. Evie is strong and vulnerable. Catherine is stern, yet kind and matronly. Nomia is a lost rebellious child. Even the background characters of the moms in the playground were derived from real life. Rigney laughed when I brought up the playground scenes, stating they were real feelings she felt with her daughter while she was in the local playground as she was a full time working mom.
“I really was Evie in those situations. I used to carry my daughter to the park with literally nothing and just try and be a mom. I’m not sure if the other moms were judging me or if it just felt like that, but man nothing feels worse than feeling like a bad mom.” Rigney is an excellent mom for the record, but this small vulnerability that she shows through Evie in the opening scenes is important for new moms to see they are not alone.
Riney originally wrote the tale of Nomia and Evie Nice.” ago in her then writers group. The Anthology, called Dive surrounded mermaids and ocean views. Rigney’s piece was called “Mermaids aren’t Nice”. Soon her family and friends begged her to know more. And more they got! The brief short story, spurred from paintings of mermaids and a Yeat’s induced childhood of folk tales, turned into the page turning trilogy it is today.
“Like an idiot I said ‘Let’s make it a trilogy!’ I swear this series almost killed me.”
Speaking of the merrow, I promised killer mermaids didn’t I?
Nomia, who is the main beautiful merrow, turns Evie’s life upside down and makes her pair with an unlikely ally Aunt Catherine. Nomia is a strong, larger than life woman who knows what she wants and takes it. Catherine is a prissy older woman who loves Evie’s daughter Savannah… but would rather that Evie wasn’t the host of her perfect great-niece. Paddy, who’s temperament is based on Heather’s real-life husband, is the lovable and patience Irish-man that even the most messy person can fall in love with. To see how this unlikely cast of characters gets into the trouble of multiple kidnappings and drunken stake-outs purchase a copy of Waking the Merrow on Amazon!
Heather puts some Rhode Island flare on this book with descriptions of Narragansett Bay, her beloved Pawtuxet Village, and adding in some rich Irish immigrant history to the rock and cold shores of Rhode Island. Heather also happened to work on the book for a few years when she took time off from being an art teacher to raise her daughter. She self published the book and actively participates in Rhode Island Comic-con ARIA Author expo, and sells her books every opportunity she gets. From this interview, and the many panels I have attended with her, Heather tries to make her sci-fi believable to the audience, which is where her intensive research into Irish folk tales, Rhode Island history, and Irish immigrant history come into play.
“To make this believable I had to give the audience/ read the ability to make the world feel real. If the world didn’t seem real than the entire book falls apart.” Rigney and her panel mates laughed. “It’s true though! If I wanted to make the reader believe that there were really mermaids in Narragansett Bay, than I had to do research to make sure that my mermaids or merrow seemed legit.”
As an author myself, I can appreciate this advice but I can also see how it impacted Heather’s vision from short story to full blown trilogy. Personally, I love how Heather writes like she is talking to a friend. At one point she even has a few fourth-wall breaks with Evie talking directly to the reader. “Amature move, but it worked so well! I was really pleased when you mentioned it and I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!” I enjoyed every belly laughing second of it. I cannot recommend it and the remainder of the trilogy enough.
A HUGE thank you to Heather Rigney for spending time with me for this interview on her busy Saturday morning!